Court of Appeal rules Legal Aid requirements for victims of domestic abuse are invalid
Some of the changes brought in by the Government (1st April 2013) requiring victims of domestic abuse to provide ‘supporting documents’ to enable them to obtain legal aid have been found to be legally flawed in the Court of Appeal.
The Appeal led by Rights of Women a registered charity which gives free legal advice on family law (among other areas), and campaigns and provides education and training on women's rights, with a particular specialism in gender-based violence.
The judgment starts with a strong opening paragraph ‘Legal aid is one of the hallmarks of a civilised society. Domestic violence is a blot on any civilised society but is regrettably prevalent. It is therefore no surprise that in an age of austerity, when significant reductions in the availability of legal aid are being made by Parliament, legal aid is preserved for victims of domestic violence who seek protective court orders or who are parties to family law proceedings against the perpetrator of the violence. The main reason for that preservation, apart from natural sympathy with the victims of domestic violence, is that they will be intimidated and disadvantaged in legal proceedings, if they are forced to represent themselves against and perhaps be cross-examined by the perpetrator of the violence.’
The Court of Appeal concluded that:
- The Regulation stipulating that the documentary support verifying the domestic abuse alleged must have been given within a 24 month period before any application for legal aid was invalid.
- The failure to cater for victims of domestic violence who have suffered from financial abuse was invalid.
TV Edwards have supported Rights of Women and our David Emmerson gave evidence to the Justice Select Committee on the need for family legal aid reform. See a report on his evidence here
The full Court of Appeal Judgment can be accessed here